January 06, 2013

Software Review: AnVir Task Manager 7.0.4

I don't generally post software reviews because what works for me won't necessarily work for you.  And I've stayed away from this kind of program in the past, mostly because I'm afraid I'll muck up my system by stopping or preventing something that's necessary. (I did that once with CCleaner, what a mess.  Not the program's fault.)

But because of the good reviews from users at Giveaway of the Day and the fact that my Windows 7 system seems to be gradually slowing down, I thought I'd take a deep breath, cross my fingers, and give it a try.  Hey, I have backups, so if I screw something up I'm covered.  Right?  Right??

Anyway, I installed this program and started tinkering with things.  I was amazed.  The GUI, which looks terribly busy when you open the program, is actually easy to use.  (That's "Graphic User Interface", or what you see when you start the program.)  After installation you're taken to AnVir Software's site where you can watch a video on how to use the program though I wish they had more in-depth videos on some things.  Normally it pisses me off to be taken to the developer's site upon installation because I've already been there or I wouldn't have chosen the program, but in this case I was pleased.  The video was helpful.

Because it's so easy to use and so comprehensive, I decided to review the software.  What does AnVir Task Manager do?  Here's the developer's description, with my comments in red:

Monitor your system and replace Windows Task Manager:

  • Information about processes, startup programs, services, internet connections, drivers  
  • Integrated database with Descriptions for 70 000+ startup programs, Internet Explorer toolbars and services
They're not kidding.  I was able to get comprehensive information on every single thing my computer is running, wants to run, isn't running but will/might run, and - I think you get the idea. Company name, file name, file location, in some cases a description of what it actually does, what other processes rely on it, you name it.  I've often wondered what some of those processes are and now I know. 

I was also able to stop some things from running at startup.  I found a couple of updaters for software I (supposedly) uninstalled weeks ago.  I found some stuff I don't use.  Stopping them from running was a right-click, left-click.  Simple!
  • Icons in the tray that indicate CPU, disk, network, memory and battery
Installation of the icons is optional, but in Win 7 they aren't intrusive because they reside in that pop-up box on the taskbar.  Although I can't verify this (I don't run other monitoring programs), I've seen posts from other users saying the temperature readings are a bit off.  That doesn't bother me because I've never monitored the temps before so for me it's a "Who cares?".

Get rid of viruses, Trojans and spyware that your antivirus missed:

  • Security risk rating for each active process and startup program
This is a terrific feature (though not unique to this software).  The only thing I don't like about it is they don't explain why something has a high risk rating.  All of the high risk things currently running on my system checked out as completely safe (meaning, virus/malware/spyware free).  Oh, well.  There weren't many and it didn't take long to look them up.
  • Get notification when any program tries to add itself to startup
Oh, yes!  I needed this because I'm always opening email attachments (it's part of my job, can't avoid it).  In the past I've picked up malware that wasn't caught by my antivirus program.  Although I'm not about to deliberately infect my computer to test this feature, I believe it works like it says it does.  And this comes in very handy when your browser (read: IE) tries to sneak in an add-on or two without asking.
  • Right click on any suspicious process or file and check it on virustotal.com with 30+ antiviruses
This is how you look up something to see if it's actually a threat.  How simple is that??  No more copying file names and Googling them. 

Enhance and tune up XP, Vista or Windows 7:

  • Tweaker that gives access to hundreds of XP / Vista settings
I'm running Windows 7, so I haven't checked these.  They're not kidding when they say "hundreds", though.
  • Click on the title of any application to minimize window to system tray
OK, you know what the system tray is, right?  It's the part of the toolbar where the clock is.  Minimizing to the tray saves space on your taskbar, but Win 7 takes care of this for me by overlapping file icons of the same type anyway.  And I don't usually have more than 2 or 3 things open at once.  I can see how it would come in handy for people who have lots of windows open at once, though.
  • List of recently used folders in Open / Save dialogs
  • Drive’s free space as a colored horizontal bar in Windows ‘My Computer’
Again, Windows 7 does this already.
  • Last launched and favorites programs and folders in tray menu
Again, meh.

Speed up your PC and Windows startup:

  • “Delayed Startup” lets you set up any startup program to run few minutes later after Windows startup
I love this feature.  Outlook was taking forever to load, presumably because everything was trying to load at once on startup.  I set it at a 30 second start delay and voila!  It pops right up.  You can customize the time delay, and you can even check a box to "Run as Administrator".   
  • Run startup programs minimized to system tray, or as a floating icon
I guess I'm dumb.  I just don't see the benefit of the floating icon thing.  But it's cool.
  • Balance CPU usage
I haven't tinkered with this yet.  I don't think I plan to, at least not until I educate myself about it.  It kinda scares me.

Would I get the free version or pay $29.95 for the basic version?  No.  You can't save changes to the process run priorities, and you can't permanently block undesired processes.  This was a "WTF?" for me.  If those settings aren't saved, what's the point of including them?  Plus, they don't do other things too.  Here's a comparison of what you get with each version.

Would I pay $49.95 for the Pro version?  I might.  I'd have to think about it, especially since there are free programs out there that do a lot of this, plus I could just learn to use my Windows Task Manager.  But because I got it for free from Giveaway of the Day, it's a keeper.